Plush and pristine

Deep-cleaning the carpeting is time-consuming, messy and often costly. But with the new Hoover Agility SteamVac ($199-$229), cleaning the carpeting may well become less of a labor. The new Agility deep cleaner, with its maneuverable and flexible extractor, promises to offer a professional-quality deep-carpet cleaning. The Agility has removable side-by-side tanks, a tool caddy, powered hand tool and scrubbing brushes. It also includes features such as the Clean Surge system, which dispenses an extra boost of cleaning solution at the push of a button, and Heated Cleaning, which heats the cleaning solution and carpeting. Compact, lightweight and with a fold-down handle, the Agility can easily be stored away.

The Hoover Agility SteamVac is available at JC Penney, Sears, Best Buy and other retailers. Visit www.hoover.com or call 800-944-9200.


See the invitational exhibit The Animal Instinct, on display through Feb. 12 at Baltimore Clayworks, 5707 Smith Ave. Ceramic sculptor Beth Cavener Stichter curated the exhibit, which features animal-themed works by 20 sculptors and pottery artists. Stichter's "Cornered Hare" stoneware is pictured below. Call 410-578-1919.

Visit the Steven Scott Gallery, 9169 Reisterstown Road, Owings Mills, through Feb. 26 and see Bravura Brushwork, an exhibit of expressive paintings by Hollis Sigler, Karen Vornov, Gary Bukovnik, Kazhia Kolb and others. Call 410-902-9300.

Farmhouse for a new age

It's a little country, a little city. It's the new farmhouse. Built for the 21st-century family, the farmhouse of today is a house with a new attitude. It's welcoming, simple and functional, as it always was, but with modern elegance, too, in huge kitchen islands, vaulted ceilings, glass walls and freestanding fireplaces.

In her new book The Farmhouse: New Inspiration for the Classic American Home (Taunton Press, 2004, $32), available at Amazon.com, author and architect Jean Rehkamp Larson presents an inspiring collection of 20 new and remodeled farmhouses. The featured homes -- from Massachusetts to Mississippi to California -- all built or remodeled in the last five years, are not merely replicas of farmhouses, but are dwellings inspired by the hearty and homely architecture of the classic farmhouse. An entire chapter, in fact, is devoted to a lush Potomac farmhouse (above and right), and includes photos of the home's circular library wall, expansive kitchen, bathroom and main living space and exterior.

The book, filled with more than 300 color photos, features floor plans, historical sidebars and tidbits about each home, and offers information on the architects and designers of each home.

Before throwing that snow . . .

Thinking of buying a snow thrower? Think about these tips first, says Simplicity Manufacturing, maker of the Simplicity and Snapper snow throwers:

Know your average annual snowfall. Be sure the thrower has enough power to handle it.

Know the length of your driveway and sidewalk, to help you determine whether you need a large or compact unit.

When visiting dealers, bring along all potential snow thrower operators to try out the unit.

If it suits your needs, purchase accessories such as headlights, drift cutters and hand-warmers.

Inquire about services. Some dealers will fill your gas, change oil, check belts and check for overall wear.

Visit www.simplicitymfg.com for more information.

Home Front welcomes interesting home and garden news. Please send suggestions to Lori Sears, Home Front, The Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore, MD 21278, or fax to 410-783-2519. Information must be received at least four weeks in advance to be considered.

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